Monday, March 22, 2010

Rumblings and Grumblings

Well, we had nearly a full week of classes after the earthquake before anything of note happened. We started classes again last Monday, a little over a week after the initial quake. There were still tremors, but the large aftershocks seemed to have calmed down. This did not last long. Thursday morning, around 11:30 in the morning, I was standing in the front of my classroom, trying to give a pop-quiz to my 11th and 12th grade British literature class. Slowly, subtly, the earth started to undulate beneath us and the windows and walls rattled in protest. I stood there grinning at my class as we discussed the intensity of the tremor and if it was strong enough to merit any action. I commented on how I felt like I was standing on a boat (although I was in a brick building with a tile-covered concrete floor). After about 15 to 20 seconds, it still hadn't calmed down, and in fact, the windows seemed to rattle a bit more. So we decided to skidaddle out of the classroom. People seemed to be handling it pretty well, although I heard another teacher admonishing her class that they're the "big kids" so they should remain calm as an example.

Half the school congregated in the parking lot and the other half met in the back field. Since that was supposed to be our emergency meeting spot, those of us in the parking lot headed around the buildings to join the rest of the school. The kids lined up according to grades. At this point I noticed that the elementary far outstrips the high school in their ability to form straight and orderly lines. I contemplated that perhaps the high school should return to a class of rudimentary shapes as their "lines" looked more like clouds, or at the very best, a rope with a snarled, tangled knot in the middle of it. My pointing out this fact was only successful in getting the Jr High to imitate a perfectly straight line. The Sr High students were far too old and important to do something as mundane as lining up according to their teachers' instructions. :o)

After congratulating the kids, we reviewed the emergency procedures with them, laughing that the drill we had planned for the following week was no longer necessary as God provided us with His own "drill." The reminders and instructions were repeated in Spanish and then in Korean, as many students (especially in the elementary) do not speak English OR Spanish...a challenge on a normal day, but throw in a strong aftershock....forget about it! We completed our "head check" and headed back into the classrooms.

As a teacher, disruptions are annoying because it can take awhile to get the kids back on task. The bigger the disruption, the longer it can take. And this had been a pretty big disruption, although I was impressed with how well they had handled themselves. Well, I jumped right back into my pop-quiz, but barely had completed another question when the earth started waving beneath us again. I stood there, again grinning at the class (perhaps with a slight roll of the eyes as I contemplated another disruption), as we assessed the situation to see if we needed to evacuate again. Meanwhile, others, in their attempt to illustrate the effectiveness of hiding under desks as a possible means of protection, proceeded to awkwardly scrunch under the desk, knocking over chairs and thrusting limbs in the aisles. (Perhaps this also attributed to my eye-rolling.) This aftershock wasn't nearly as strong, but it did last quite awhile. So I opened my classroom door, saw another class filing out past me, and turned to tell my students to complete the drill they had just learned.

We headed out to the back field, and the students lined up, or "lined up," depending on the age, once again. The other administrator and I decided to go to lunch 15 minutes early and end class. Since the landline had been temporarily cut short, people were calling out on their cell phones, trying to get a hold of family members. Parents were already calling the school in mass quantities, hoping to see if their kids were ok. The phone lines being cut made this impossible for a little while, though. As we discussed the situation and comforted a few of the elementary kids who were crying after the second shock, there was apparently another one. I, however, did not even feel it.

Some parents came to pick up their kids, which I understood completely although I thought that it would be better for the students to remain in their normal routine to avoid being unnecessarily scared. However, the parents were panicking more than the students were. The problem with panic is that it's contagious. So some of the students, who previously were handling things pretty well, saw their parents freaking out, and so they lost their sense of security and succumbed to their fear as well. It was impressed upon me how much those in charge of others need to squash their fears for the sake of others. And I will admit, that although having the students there made the aftershocks more stressful, I was actually LESS fearful because I was preoccupied with keeping the kids calm and keeping the school running.

Well, we found out that the aftershocks were 7.2 (the largest since the original earthquake), 6.9, and 6.3, I believe. Those aftershocks had their own series of tremors, and the earth moved more that day than it had in quite awhile. That was a week and a half ago, and since then there have been very few large aftershocks, thank God! We had heard that we would need another big aftershock to get the jostled earth back in place, as it were. We're hoping that was the one to do it. We've heard that we're due a few more 7.0 aftershocks, but as yet we haven't received any. In fact, the tremors have calmed down to just 4-5 a day. I check the map frequently (the one that I provided a link for in the previous post) and it's starting to clear up. It only posts what has happened in the last week, so it's been a bit difficult to keep track of how many aftershocks we've actually had. I lost track at around 300!

Thank God that life is almost back to normal and the earth has been relatively calm. I have heard reports from so many people who have gone down south to provide supplies to those who experienced true destruction and loss. They've told me that the people down there are doing pretty well as far as food and other necessities go (people from all over the country are taking truckfulls down), but the real need is for construction workers to go to help rebuild. That is the more difficult problem to fix as it takes longer, but it's getting more and more urgent as winter approaches. Please continue to pray for the needs down in southern Chile, as well as for the emotional wear-and-tear of those of us here in Santiago. The wind rattling my window and people running up the stairs outside my apartment set me on alert, and twice I've woken up with my heart pounding, the sound of the earthquake roaring in my ears, only to discover it was all in my head. It's amazing how much it has affected my subconscious. I've been told that it will take a couple years for a passing truck on the road to stop getting my heart racing! But I've been leaning on God more than ever, and as expected, He's given me more strength than ever!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

More earthquake aftermath

So, last night we had another pretty big aftershock at around 11pm (we had two yesterday...which we haven't had a big one since Sunday, and a medium one on Monday. Nothing on Tuesday besides tremors.) So I decided to look on a map to discover what magnitude it was (although as I've said before, I'm getting pretty good at guesstimating.) The closer an aftershock is (obviously) and the shallower it is, the more things move. The last one was pretty close, so it felt pretty strong. It's a very strange sensation...almost as if I'm on a boat, even though I was just standing in my bathroom flossing.

Anyway, to put things into perspective for you, I'm going to share some statistical data with you. This will show you how shaky my life has been for the last 5 days (and I think it's wearing on me, because I've been very tired today even though I've been able to sleep in decently the last few days, and that last aftershock kind of put me on edge more than the other ones have. It's VERY wearing to always be reminded that the place where you're living isn't necessarily safe and you never know when it will happen again. It's like sitting on a ticking bomb that every once in a while starts beeping after having come out of no where with a preliminary explosion.) Anyway.....

As you know, there was a decent sized earthquake in Haiti in January. It was a 7.0 at its epicenter. Here is a map of it and its 43 aftershocks...

What you may not know, is that about 10 hours before our earthquake here in Chile, there was a decent sized one in Japan that was also a 7.0 at its epicenter. It's still having aftershocks. Here are two maps, one of all of Asia.....
and one of a 10 degree window near the epicenter.....
Notice that in the 10 degree window it shows only 20 earthquakes/aftershocks as of 10pm EST on Wednesday... (this number may change a bit by the time you see this, but the ratio should be about the same). Notice that the map of all of Asia only shows about 61 earthquakes/aftershocks.

Now, our earthquake at its epicenter was 8.8 which I'm sure you know....Here in Santiago it felt like a 7.0 (same as Haiti and Japan). However, the notable difference is in the sheer number of aftershocks (and many of them have been quite large, in contrast with the other two countries' earthquakes). Here is a map of a 10 degree window of Chile (same size as that one from Japan that I showed you)......
Notice, as of 10pm EST on Wednesday, there are ONE HUNDRED AND NINETY SEVEN earthquakes/aftershocks.

Can you even imagine how old this is getting? For a fleeting second after that aftershock tonight I wanted to hop on a plane and get out of here for good and go to safe, little New Jersey where an occasional snowstorm is the biggest of our worries. I'm trying not to have a spirit of fear, but it isn't always easy. I'm VERY glad that I decided to cancel classes until Monday. Who knows how long this is going to go on!!

Well, keep praying. If this is just now starting to get to me, someone who hasn't really been scared at all since that initial 3 minutes of craziness, imagine how the people are faring who've been freaked out for 5 days straight!!